Cutting Celery is a form of celery that’s grown for its leaves and seeds instead of its stems. Plants are closely related to wild celery, are looser and leafier than stalk-celery, and often have a stronger flavor. They’re also easier to grow and a little less picky about their conditions, so give it a try if you’re new to the celery-growing world. Stalks are often hollow, and plants look more like parsley than the celery we frequently see at supermarkets. Cutting celery is often used as an herb, with older leaves tasting best when cooked. As a biennial, flowers will form in the second year and attract pollinators and beneficial insects as well as produce tasty seeds—if you let it grow that long.
Par-Cel is a slightly curled-leaf variety of cutting celery that resembles a cross between celery and parsley. Also known by the Dutch name Zwolsche Krul, this variety is an open-pollinated heirloom that can reach 3 feet tall, with thin, hollow stems. It will grow in containers or in the ground and can be used as a garnish or a flavoring. Easy to grow, it tolerates both heat and cold, and is a particularly good choice for growers in hot climates, where a standard celery won’t grow well.
Seed Depth: Surface to 1/8″
Space Between Plants: 9–12″
Space Between Rows: 18–24″
Germination Soil Temperature: 55–75°F
Days for Germination: 15–30
Sow Indoors: 6–12 weeks before average last frost date. For fall crop, 10–12 weeks before transplanting outdoors in late summer.
Sow Outdoors: Not recommended, but if you must, 1–2 weeks after average last frost date.
Vegetative: You can regrow cutting celery from the base of the plant if you cut the whole plant when harvesting, but it’s probably a better idea to just eat the stems as you need them.
Grows best in cool weather and needs a long period of mild temperatures for best results. If grown in weather over 80°F, plants will be more bitter tasting. A moderate and moist coastal climate is ideal. Grow as a fall crop in regions with hot summers. Plants will survive temperatures as low as 10°F and can overwinter successfully down to USDA Zone 5 or 6, especially if given some protection from frosts.
Natural: Full sun to partial shade.
Artificial: Grows well under LED or fluorescent lamps. Needs 6 hours of light daily.
Soil: Prefers a well-drained loamy or sandy soil with moderate to high amounts of organic matter. A pH between 6.0 and 6.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in mineral wool cubes.
Hydroponics: Thrives in hydroponic systems, including ebb and flow. Use clay pellets as your growing medium to provide support for the roots.
Water: Requires moderate to high levels of water. Aim for about 2″ of consistent watering per week. Do not allow soil to dry out.
Nutrients: Requires moderate levels of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, to support its growth. Feed with compost tea or liquid seaweed once per week, especially if growing in poor soils. Amend soil with compost before planting.
Foliar: A foliar spray of diluted Epsom salts will help with magnesium deficiency.
Mulching: Use mulch to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds. A thick layer of a loose mulch, such as straw, can help plants to survive winter frosts and re-sprout to produce flowers and seeds in the spring.
Deficiency(s): A boron deficiency will cause distorted growth and splitting of stalks. Magnesium and calcium deficiencies can make plants more susceptible to rot and blights. A lack of magnesium will also make the leaves turn yellow, and a lack of calcium will cause the tips of leaves and younger stems to die.
Rotation: A 2-year rotation away from all plants in the Apiaceae family is recommended. This includes carrots, fennel, cilantro, dill, anise, and parsley.
Companions: Grows well with lettuce, spinach, and peas, and will repel insects that bother brassicas. Avoid the Cucurbitacea family.
Harvest: Cut stems as needed from the outside of the plant using a sharp knife. You can begin to harvest leaves lightly in as little as a month from planting. Plants will continue to produce new stems throughout the growing season.
Storage: Leaves will keep in the refrigerator for 1–2 weeks. For longest life, harvest the day after a deep watering.
Seed Saving: To save seed in an area where the soil freezes in the winter, you’ll have to dig up your plants and store them in a container of straw in a cold, dark location. In spring, you can replant them, and they should flower. If your winter is mild, cover plants with thick mulch and leave them in the ground. After flowers dry and seeds begin to brown, remove and hang to fully cure indoors. Separate seeds from any remaining plant matter.
History: This variety of cutting celery originated in Holland and was brought to the US by German settlers.
Preserve: Leaves can be chopped and frozen in oil or water. They can also be dried by hanging upside down in a dark, well-ventilated location. If you wait until the second season to harvest seeds, they can be dried and stored in an airtight container.
Prepare: Use leaves as an herb to provide a celery flavor to your soups, stews, or stuffing recipes. They can also be used in salads, particularly when younger. Seeds are used as a culinary spice.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Medicinal: Contains antioxidants. Cutting celery is an anti-inflammatory and can be used to treat joint pain, headache, and loss of appetite. Because of its fiber content, it’s beneficial for your digestive system. It may also help to treat insomnia. Seeds are a diuretic.
Warnings: If you’re pregnant, nursing, or have kidney issues or low blood pressure, avoid using celery seed in large amounts. Some people are highly allergic to celery, particularly the seeds, but all parts of the plant may cause a reaction. This is most common in central Europe. Also, certain chemicals found in celery may cause the skin to become more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays.
Use your cutting celery leaves to make this unusual Celery Leaf and Basil Pesto.